Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Continued Sales Decline of Dungeons and Dragons and Other Stories of Note

A couple of noteworthy items have just broken and it seems like a good idea to wrap them all up in one place.

ICv2 Report


ICv2 has released their most recent market report and some interesting things came out of the report.

  • The retailer hobby game market grew at a rate of 20% in 2013. This marks five consecutive years of retailer sales increases in the hobby gaming market and effectively a 70% increase since the crash in 2008 when the market shrank 5% in sales.
  • With no new products to sale on retail bookshelves Dungeons and Dragons continued to drop in sales to an astonishing fourth place. Currently the game sits behind (1) Paizo's Pathfinder, (2) Fantasy Flight's Star Wars, and (3) Evil Hat's Fate.
Wizards Continues to Save on Content



After two years of weekly updates today marked the close of James Wyatt's Wandering Monsters column; and perhaps predictably, it went out with a whimper. The column has been lambasted in recent weeks for producing a consistently lack luster product more notable for its brevity than for its inspiring and thoughtful content.

The ending of this column leaves the Dungeons and Dragons home page with three regular columns: Forging the Realms by Ed Greenwood; Rule of Three by Rodney Thompson; and Legends and Lore by Mike Mearls. The dearth of new content available to the community on Wizard's page just drives more interest away from the former industry leader and they have no one but themselves to blame.

PAX East D&D Live Game


Continuing the tradition of Penny Arcade live Dungeons and Dragons games at PAX, PAX East will see yet another installment in the Acquisitions Inc. saga. This time will see the return of Chris Perkins as Dungeon Master, Mike Krahulik as Jim Darkmagic, Jerry Holkins as Omin Dran, and Scott Kurtz as Binwin Bronzebottom. Noticeably absent from the announcement are last year's participant, Patrick Rothfuss as Viari, and long time companion Wil Wheaton as Aeofel Elhromanë. Though the announcement does mention that there will be a surprise intern a this year's event. 

Guesses as to who will be the new intern are ranging far and wide though I'm hopeful for either a return of Wil Wheaton or Kris Straub.

You can listen to the entire archive of Acquisitions Inc. podcasts at the Wizards website.

20 comments:

  1. Honestly, I haven't endured the 4th edition since came out. I hated what they did to the Forgotten Realms, one of my favorite settings, and watch them fall down the graded list can only please me.

    Also I have to say that, in addition to the indy products, over the past two years there have appeared many other rpg interesting although my favorite remains Pathfinder.

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    1. I'm not such a fan of Pathfinder - even though I really dug third edition - but you're absolutely right, the competition of today is far stiffer than it ever has been in the past. I hope for their sakes that they've recognized this situation and are preparing for it.

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    2. As a fan of 3.5, Pathfinder was for me the natural end, and I like how Paizo handled the birth of the product involving members of their forum.

      Of course I know that there are "better" games, but my heart remains tied to this game system since I started playing with OD&D/AD&D 1st edition about... thir... well forget it otherwise all understand that I'm very old! ;)

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  2. I don't think I've bought anything from Wizards since 4e came on the scene. I don't care for pathfinder but my older son has a set of books i've contributed to via gifts . Fate and another star wars also don't appeal to me. It's almost hard to believe I've spent a small fortune on gaming over the years. New D&D is gonna have to be pretty darned sweet for me to bother buying it anway I've got 5 or so brand name D&Ds, 3 versions of swords & wizardy, ACK, LL, LotFP, BFRPG,Epees&sorc, AS&SH, Pars Fortuna, and many more.

    I don't really think it's the competition hitting them in the marketplace just now however, it's just having nothing new on the shelves.

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    1. Probably you are right. At the moment they will publish the new edition they will climb the rankings again ... but I hope that in the meantime as many players as possible continue to look around and realize that there is a wide choice of quality RPG and they can have the greatest satisfaction in game with them.

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    2. "I don't really think it's the competition hitting them in the marketplace just now however, it's just having nothing new on the shelves."

      Absolutely.

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  3. DnD for years was pretty much THE game if you wanted to RPG. It has a solid engine, lots of support, has a basis in high fantasy and is fun to play in the right group. It is no longer the only game in town.

    Now with the new publishers and desktop publishing getting more and more affordable there is a wide variety of engines and games to pick from that are more flexible, easier startup and affordable to get into. This last one is a huge thing because with the economy tanking people have stopped to reconsider where their money goes a bit more and I think the 50 extra rulebooks at varying prices (none under $25 last I checked) may be where the budget gets cut. I know it did for me.

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    1. "It is no longer the only game in town."

      It hasn't been the only game in town for a long, long time.

      "his last one is a huge thing because with the economy tanking people have stopped to reconsider where their money goes a bit more and I think the 50 extra rulebooks at varying prices (none under $25 last I checked) may be where the budget gets cut. "

      The $50 price tag is definitely a hurdle that must be overcome, but it's a price tag that has become pretty standard for most every hardback rpg published today. Sad as that is to say.

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  4. I'm not surprised that D&D is on the decline. I'm very optimistic about D&D Next as a system, but I have no idea if it can pull the game out of the sales tailspin it has been in lately. When competition enters, the company that used to run the show with little competition will either have to adapt or perish. In these creative properties I have seen that open source systems have done extremely well, and more narrative systems such as FATE have gained a lot of popularity due to the online tabletop roleplaying community. You can play a crunchy game, but it is just simpler and just as satisfying, at least to me, to play a game with less strings attached. The E-pub may be the beginning of the end for D&D, but we will never forget the elephant in the room that it was for so long.

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    1. "I'm very optimistic about D&D Next as a system, but I have no idea if it can pull the game out of the sales tailspin it has been in lately."

      I'm optimistic as well; but I think that the tailspin will be mostly turned about by the new edition's launch as there has been a long dearth of new content. Now whether or not it's able to supplant Pathfinder and take back the top spot will depend on how well the new edition does (i.e. do they screw the pooch as they did with 4th or do they get it right off the bat).

      "When competition enters, the company that used to run the show with little competition will either have to adapt or perish."

      Wizards of the Coast has a long history of fighting competing companies for supremacy of their markets. I have faith that they'll be able to adapt.

      "The E-pub may be the beginning of the end for D&D, but we will never forget the elephant in the room that it was for so long."

      It may well be, but I would be surprised if Wizards didn't go to an all digital format before they gave up the ghost.

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    2. THANK YOU... I really wish people didn't keep saying "there was no competition.
      There was, the difference was D&D managed to fight it off and retain their place as the largest pnp game with it's content. Not always perfectly but they did.

      The competition was always there, WoTC dropped the ball and gave people reason to go out and find it, and more specifically gave reason for a publisher like paizo to get into the game development market.

      One of the biggest reasons Pathfinder has been financially successful isn't even it's 3.5 heart, it is their reliable content, well organised Pathfinder society content and most importantly their adventure path monthly series.
      Now not everyone likes prewritten stuff, but boy is it attractive to those of us who work 50 hour weeks, have a family but still want to run a group for a bit of recreation with friends.

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    3. "One of the biggest reasons Pathfinder has been financially successful isn't even it's 3.5 heart, it is their reliable content, well organised Pathfinder society content and most importantly their adventure path monthly series."

      I think they also were incredibly smart in how they marketed themselves prior to the disillusion of Dungeon and Dragon. They established themselves as a quality company and continued that perception right out of the gate.

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  5. This is exactly why I stick with the older editions. For me, 2nd edition was the best version. But that was because we didn't play D&D as a minis game. We played it as a story driven RPG. That being said, I have a bunch of Pathfinder books - and they collect dust. Right now it is far to complex for my gaming group, especially coming from 2e. Next has promise and the play test was lots of fun. Hopefully they stay the course and make it less of a board game (4e!) and more of a story and imagination game like in the 80s and 90s.

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    1. If the playtest is any indication, I think they've been on the right track to reclaim the top spot in the market. My enjoyment of D&D in general died with 3/3.5. Sure, it's a good system, and Pathfinder took the ball and ran with it for a touchdown. But my gods, the freaking crunch you have to slog through just to get started with either is just too bloody much. Fourth didn't do anything for me either, because they did in fact turn it into a miniatures game to appeal to the computer gamers. So that left hardcore D&D guys like me twisting in the wind. BUT, the playtest came out. Oh man, when I first downloaded it and read it, I was pretty much just repeating myself, "Holy shit! This really is the best of both worlds." It is approachable, fast, streamlined, sexy. Hell, the advantage mechanic alone is brilliant in its simplicity, and slices a ton of crunch out of the system. They succeded in pulling this old gamer back into the hobby with that playtest. If they don't shit the bed, and keep the core of that playtest sound, and introduce modularity and customization to their system, I think they will reclaim their top spot back from Paizo. Don't get me wrong, I think Paizo is a great company, and they are excellent for the hobby, but they are missing one thing; the name Dungeons & Dragons.

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    2. when I first downloaded it and read it, I was pretty much just repeating myself, "Holy shit! This really is the best of both worlds."

      Me too.

      "I think Paizo is a great company, and they are excellent for the hobby, but they are missing one thing; the name Dungeons & Dragons."

      I think that Paizo is run by brilliant people who really know how to fill a hole in the market. They proved that when they took over Dungeon and Dragon magazines years ago and kept doing so with Pathfinder. I'm excited to see where they go in the coming years.

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    3. Same here. I'm just curious to think which way they are going to go with Pathfinder. It has turned into a monster. A gigantic monster that many people love, certainly, but I feel that it isn't newb friendly. I'm sure the Beginner's Box helped them combat this some, but it isn't really a "casual" rpg. I think D&D is gunning for that market, as well as those of us who left the game years ago unsatisfied. Ah well, who the fuck knows. I could be talking completely out of my ass right now and all of our speculation and guesswork could be completely turned on its ear come August. Sigh.

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    4. "It has turned into a monster. A gigantic monster that many people love, certainly, but I feel that it isn't newb friendly. I'm sure the Beginner's Box helped them combat this some, but it isn't really a "casual" rpg. I think D&D is gunning for that market,"

      I absolutely agree.

      In a lot of ways Pathfinder has begun to fall into the same trap that happened with Third Edition - only it's happened a lot faster than I expected, and I think that's because Pathfinder is a reinterpretation of Third Edition.

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  6. Precisely. Paizo's business model with Pathfinder, while sound in keeping their fan base active and interested, has caused a bit of a disconnect with guys like me working actively to bring fresh blood into the hobby. The speed at which they've accomplished this is because of, I believe, their subscription service. If you're a die hard Pathfinder player/gm/collector, then something like their service is fantastic. But by having to continually produce books that actually add to the system, they've increased that disconnect even further.

    Imagine a brand new, fledgling gm, looking for a game that is easy to teach, but has enough crunch and depth to remain interesting and exciting, comes across Pathfinder and (what we are hoping will be) the new D&D. Now granted, someone like us, who are familiar with lots of different systems and can actually learn a game just by reading core books, could pick up Pathfinder and go, "Mmhmm, okay, got that, got that, let's roll." But someone who is truly new would look at Pathfinder and go, "Okay, got the core book. I think I have the gist, but there are lots of modifiers and tables and charts and, shit, a whole lot of stuff here." On the flip side, IF D&D is going the way of their playtest, and just expanding on wizard school specialties, paladin oaths, cleric domains and the like, and keep their core ruleset intact, then D&D will win that battle 9 times out of 10.

    Of course, as I said before, I could be talking out of my ass here.

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    1. No, it's a legit assessment (by the way you could exchange Pathfinder for Rifts and that whole thing is still mostly true).

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NEW D&D SURVEY UP AND IT'S ALL ABOUT SETTINGS! GO GREYHAWK GO!

The new D&D survey has gone live and it's mostly about new settings for the game to explore. GET YOUR GREYHAWK VOTES IN NOW KIDS! ...